Harrogate council outlines new company plan in major revamp of sports and leisure services

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Harrogate Borough Council has outlined its plan to save around half a million pound a year by setting up a company to run its sports and leisure services.

The authority wants to launch Brimham’s Active by August 2021 in a major revamp of the way it runs its 11 leisure venues in Harrogate, Knaresborough, Ripon and Pateley Bridge.

The plan - which has been two years in the making - would see some 400 members of staff transferred across to the Local Authority Controlled Company (LACC).

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Six council officers or elected members - to be chosen next week - would be given roles as non-executive directors on a board, alongside three company executive appointments.

The council has outlined its plan to save aroundhalf a million pound a year by setting up a company to run its sports and leisure services.The council has outlined its plan to save aroundhalf a million pound a year by setting up a company to run its sports and leisure services.
The council has outlined its plan to save aroundhalf a million pound a year by setting up a company to run its sports and leisure services.

The role of a managing director will also be created.

Details of pay have yet to be revealed, but full-time and part-time contracts would be drawn up.

The council consulted with residents on its plan in May and councillors will this month be asked to give it the go-ahead.

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Coun Stanley Lumley, cabinet member for culture, tourism and sport, hailed the plan as "a new vision for the future" of the council's sports and leisure services.

But a union official at UNISON Harrogate has criticised the council's plan saying it has “no overwhelming support” from staff or the public and would put jobs at risk.

Branch secretary David Houlgate also said the council had not kept him informed as the plans progressed.

The council responded saying "to expect a running commentary while a report is prepared for councillors to consider at next week's meeting of cabinet is unrealistic."

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It added: "Our valued colleagues would be transferred to the new company on exactly the same terms and conditions they enjoy now."

The council - which is currently facing a £15million deficit as a result of the pandemic - says it would initially be able to save £400,000 a year under the plan, and this could increase to almost £600,000.

It wants to use the savings to upgrade some of its leisure venues with better changing and gym facilities.

Multi-million pound upgrade works are already underway at Ripon Swimming Pool and are expected to be completed next year.

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The council is looking at locations to build a new facility in the east of the district near Knaresborough where thousands of new homes are set to be built.

But Starbeck Baths – Harrogate's oldest swimming pool – could be closed under the proposals. Documents say officers will be considering the future of the 150-year-old venue in line with other planned redevelopments.

Revealing the LACC plan in full this week, Coun Lumley said: "It is an exciting venture and vision for the future of our service at Harrogate Borough Council.

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"For a relatively small council we offer a wide variety of services throughout our district at the main townships around the area.

"In our manifesto before the last election we recognised that we needed to invest in the service, in particular Ripon Swimming Pool as you know is well on its journey hopefully for completion at the end of next year.

"Our focus has gone away from the sports side of things and more the health living side of things - and along with that comes different ways of offering the service.

"That requires space, it requires gym equipment and studio space etc to provide those services.

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"This is clearly going to be a benefit to all and that includes the staff working for the new company, as well as the residents.

"We think we have chosen the best way forward and I am hoping my cabinet colleagues will support and the full council will ratify."

The council's portfolio of leisure venues include Harrogate Hydro, Ripon Leisure Centre, Ripon Spa Baths, Nidderdale Leisure Centre, Knaresborough Swimming Pool, Starbeck Baths, Harrogate Turkish Baths, Jennyfield Styan Community Centre, Knaresborough Community Centre, Fairfax Community Centre and Little Explorers Day Nursery.

It will cost the council around £300,000 in management and branding costs to get the project off the ground, documents said.

The plan will be discussed at a meeting of the cabinet on June 17 before full council on July 8.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter

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